Kevin, Winnie and Paul have grown into remarkably well-adjusted adults

By Saryn Chorney
October 21, 2014 02:45 PM
Credit: Eric Heinila/ABC Photo Archives; Courtesy Good Morning America/Instagram

Back in May, the cast of the Emmy-winning coming-of-age TV series The Wonder Years reunited to film some extras for the show’s DVD release. The beloved show about growing up in the 1960s (filmed in the late ’80s and early ’90s) has been off the air for two decades, and the actors hadn’t all gotten together in over 16 years.

Stars Fred Savage and Jason Hervey shared a few “sneak peek” pics on Twitter, but the general public would have to wait a little longer to fully indulge in our childhood nostalgia.

Well, that long wait has finally come to an end. The complete series DVD finally arrived on Oct. 7, and the show’s stars are making the rounds.

On Monday night, PEOPLE caught up with Fred Savage, Danica McKellar and Josh Saviano (a.k.a. Kevin Arnold, Winnie Cooper and Paul Pfeiffer) when they graced a live audience with their still-adorable presence at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Moderated by TV critic and teacher David Bianculli, the former child actors talked about their experiences growing up on set and watched clips of the show – some for the first time since the series aired.

The evening was full of excitement and emotion, from both the cast and the fans, as well as a certain writer who got to play out her Winnie Cooper/Kevin Arnold fanfic in real life (more on that later). Here are 13 little-known facts and anecdotes revealed by the trio during the reunion panel.

1. Fred Savage wasn’t overly interested in his Wonder Years audition; the then-12-year-old was mainly just excited to visit warm, sunny Los Angeles with his dad and go out to dinner. (Savage is originally from Chicago and still has traces of the accent if you listen carefully.)

2. Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper) was only slated to be a guest star in the pilot episode. And her real-life sister, Crystal McKellar, became a frequent guest star as Kevin’s notorious, gut-punching ex-girlfriend Becky Slater.

3. Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss was also Savage and McKellar’s first kiss(es), respectively. McKellar said it took six takes, and the last one – where Kevin caresses Winnie’s hair – was the one the director used. McKellar also explained how this moment in her life is so “meta” – she grew up thinking everyone’s first kiss was on a rock in the woods!

4. Fred Savage, Josh Saviano and Danica McKellar were all friends in real life too. The boys used to hang out and play catch off set, while McKellar said her co-stars were like the brothers she never had.

5. Kevin went to Paul’s bar mitzvah on the show but couldn’t go to Saviano’s real-life coming-of-age event because he had “a thing.” (No grudges held – Savage was filming a movie.) Both Saviano and McKellar went to Savage’s bar mitzvah, and they teased him for having trophies with his name on them as the centerpiece of every table. (Paul’s bar mitzvah episode was also one of the first depictions of Judaism on mainstream prime-time television.)

6. In real life, Saviano was “much cooler” than Paul. He was an athlete and all-around more popular type of guy vs. the awkward, nerdy character. In the show’s later years, the writers eventually started writing Paul to be as confident as Saviano. Math prodigy McKellar claims she was the real nerd on set.

7. The young actors had to go to school in between filming, so they often ended up doing a lot of solo takes that were edited together later. The famous scene where Winnie is in a car accident and Kevin climbs in her window and they confess their love for one another was filmed separately with tape blocking and stand-ins.

8. The questions Savage and McKellar get asked most are about Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss, and also fans demanding to know why the pair didn’t end up together. Savage explained that the way the show ended was more realistic; in real life, people rarely end up with their first loves. Life just doesn’t wrap up all neat and tidy like that. Time to get over it, people!

9. Kevin’s parents, played by Dan Lauria and Alley Mills, were not parents in real life. However, both were accomplished and trained actors who enjoyed teaching the kids their craft. Savage, Saviano and McKellar said they felt “adopted” by their on-set adult family. Meanwhile, older brother Jason Hervey was apparently pretty similar to his character Wayne in real life, though as McKellar described “a more Hollywood version.” Savage said Hervey is “great.”

10. Savage claimed he was usually nervous about having female guest stars, such as Alicia Silverstone and Carla Gugino, on set – but he was always excited about screen sister Karen’s boyfriends, actors David Schwimmer and John Corbett among them.

11. The show’s narration was voiced by Home Alone actor Daniel Stern, who also directed a number of episodes. While watching a clip of the last episode, Savage appeared to tear up and described Stern’s narration as “relentless” in terms of how swiftly it pulled at the audience’s (and the actors’) heartstrings.

12. The three main actors are parents now with children of their own. Saviano’s little daughter was in the audience and asked a question of her dad about what it’s like to be a child actor and watch yourself on screen now – which he answered very sweetly and philosophically. (His mom was in the audience, too.)

13. Former child stars Fred, Danica and Josh have all grown up to be remarkably smart, successful, well-adjusted adults. Fred and Josh were making plans to hang out again after the reunion, and Fred very kindly indulged a certain PEOPLE editor by signing her 1988 diary entry about him and the show.

Yes, Fred, we will always have our “wonder years.” Thanks for the memories.

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